In response to massive demonstrations across the country, Iranian officials have arrested so many people that they have run out of jail cells and have been detaining some people in the basements of homes, Sky News reported on Sunday citing a woman protestor.
The protestor, whose name was changed to Mina for security reasons, has been arrested twice by the police for joining the protests, and was held in solitary confinement while in detention.
“Our whole life has changed,” said the protestor on the effects of the protests that have swept Iran since a 22-year old Kurdish woman died of brain injuries following her arrest by morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.
“This is a place where detainees are not transferred into the justice system. They undergo beatings and torture,” the protestor, who is working towards a PhD in the Kurdish region of Iran, told Sky News. Without giving details of what happened to her she said that the torture was sometimes physical, sometimes mental, or a combination of the two, in voice notes she sent to Sky News on an encrypted messaging app.
“When women’s rights activists are detained, they [the police] don’t attack you physically,” Mina said. “Instead [they] threaten, intimidate and try to frighten you. They insult people’s beliefs. It is an intense psychological violence,” she added.
The protestor also said that women protestors risked losing their jobs by taking part in demonstrations.
“The jails are full of prisoners so now they use houses and basements to detain protesters,” Sky News quoted Mina as saying. She added that two other protestors were held for a week in a huge basement full of protesters and were beaten with cables and iron bars.
According to human rights watchdogs from Iran, almost 12,500 people have been arrested and nearly 250 killed since the start of the street protests, the Guardian reported. Many of those arrested are allowed either no or minimal contact with their families.
The human rights organisation Hengaw reported on Saturday that a protestor who was arrested ten days before in Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan died as a result of torture. The authorities told the protestor’s family that he had committed suicide while in detention.
There have been strikes in a few Kurdish populated cities including Sanandaj, Bukan and Saqez, while Iranian security is behaving particularly brutally in Kurdish regions of the country, according to reports.
Meanwhile rallies continue to be organised in other countries to show solidarity with the protestors in Iran. In Berlin 80,000 people gathered on Saturday and demanded that democratic governments of the world stop negotiations with “the criminal state called the Islamic Republic”.
Thousands also gathered in Washington and Los Angeles in the United States to protest against the Iranian government’s treatment of women.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday that “the Justice Department of Tehran has been tasked to file a lawsuit in order to investigate the damages and meddling inflicted by the US’s direct involvement in the unrest”.
Deputy Head of the Iranian Judiciary and Secretary of the country’s High Council for Human Rights Kazem Gharibabadi told IRNA that “the roles of countries such as the UK and Saudi Arabia that host and support the TV networks will not be ignored by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary system”.